In dealing with financial uncertainty, global warming, food safety and community preparedness, America's positive "can-do" nature is asserting itself. All over the country, people are responding by digging in and taking back-to-the-basics steps to regain control of their lives and reconnect with their communities -- and there's no better example of this than in one of Americans' passions -- their food.
First Lady Michele Obama has planted an organic kitchen garden at the White House. Meanwhile, home vegetable gardens are up 10% across the country and supplier Burpee Seeds and Plants reported a sales increase of 40% over 2007. As a result, consumers are rapidly developing a deeper appreciation for homegrown and locally sourced foods, which represent the best of both worlds: good value and unsurpassed authenticity and freshness. And, as frosting on the cake, locally produced foods, by definition, have a smaller carbon footprint, while providing important support to the local economy. We're calling this shift the Resiliency Movement.
We believe this movement is here to stay because it naturally builds on the culinary evolution of the American consumer's relationship with food. Food has become rich entertainment. The rise in popularity of TV cooking shows and the proliferation of restaurants have introduced consumers to the drama, delight and allure of fantastic food. As a result, consumers are becoming more engaged with their food -- evolving from mindless eaters into culinary experiencers.
However, consumers have more reason than ever to question. The obesity crisis and the dramatic rise in allergies and multiple food contamination scares at home and abroad have spurred consumers to reassess the current mass-food paradigm. Increasingly, consumers are responding by getting personal with their food. They're taking an active interest in who is producing, what the ingredients really are, when and where it was processed and how food reaches their table.
Once consumers take ownership of their food at an individual level by growing some of it, frequenting local farmers markets, taking cooking classes or buying in new food channels, they will be unlikely to disengage from this more connected way to experience food. They have become part of the Resiliency Movement -- whether they know it by name or not!
New Food Challenge to Marketers
The increase of consumer resiliency in food presents a significant challenge for marketers on two levels. First, "fresh," "organic" and "authentic" have been mainstay attributes of premium-positioned products. As these attributes become readily accessible -- and at a value price -- the lens by which consumers judge premium in brands is changing. Why pay a significant premium at a natural store when you can get it fresh at the local farmers market at a better value? And, for the resiliency consumer, these labels are frankly "done already." They are expecting so much more to be truly food satisfied.
Secondly, as consumers become more connected to their food and its role in their community, national brands are at risk of appearing less authentic, more impersonal and more processed. The "local" food guy identifies, delights in and speaks to Resiliency Movement consumers on their level, in their language, with passionate products that feel like they have been carefully nurtured from seed to package.
Several national brands are beginning to weave resiliency elements into their brand experience. A recent Classico ad compares its tomato sauce quality to one a consumer would make and call her own. The standard of quality measurement is the individual, not an outside authority like a chef or an "authentic" Italian. And Lay's potato chips now feature a chip location tracker -- subtly connecting the brand to local farming.
But tread carefully, as messaging that feels unauthentic in any way will emphasize the "industrial" nature of your brand.